Americans are more afraid than ever as polls open
It's no exaggeration to say a lot of Americans are scared.
Climb-proof fencing once again surrounds the White House and Californian authorities are closing off Rodeo Drive.
Cops across the country are on tactical alert and working 12-hour shifts through their leave.
In Washington DC, most of wealthy Georgetown is boarded up, as are many US cities, and college students were warned to stock up on food and medicine in case of full-scale riots.
Guns sales have skyrocketed, apartment co-ops are hiring their own security and many people have taken the rest of the week off work so they can hunker down at home.
Unfortunately, what this country needs most out of the presidential election is the scenario considered most unlikely: a clear, indisputable winner.
Democrat Joe Biden is leading nationally but it is tight in the battleground states that will decide if Donald Trump gets another term.
Both parties have doubled down on their commitment to challenge a verdict.
Trump again said the winner needs to be decided on election night - a physical impossibility given almost 100 million Americans voted early and some pivotal states warn it will take at least until the end of the week to count all their ballots.
His repeated warnings that Democrats were "rigging" and "cheating" spurred fist pumping yells from the crowd who gathered to see him in below-freezing weather in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Biden's campaign manager Jennifer O'Malley Dillon said "under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared victor on election night".
This came months after Hillary Clinton warned Democrats they shouldn't under any terms accept a quick Trump victory.
"Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out," she said in August.
Both parties have already sent out armies of lawyers across the country in readiness for legal challenges.
In the absence of clear leadership and open encouragement of dissent, it's hard to picture a good outcome unless one of the candidates assumes an unassailable lead.
Let's hope the predictions about a close race and impasse while votes are counted prove to be as false as the polls that said Clinton was going to win 2016.
Frankly, I've been a news reporter for more than 25 years and am feeling as unnerved as any other work situation has ever made me.
The reality is that I have never hoped more that I turn out to be wrong, but everything points to trouble coming.
Originally published as Why Americans are more afraid than ever